Life 103

Saturday, May 27, 2006

i remember....

W. E. Zielie, my kindred spirit and life long pal who I miss terribly and who I hope is waiting for me by the gate.

Auntie Myrtle Zielie, who worked harder than any woman ought to have to and never complained, and who lived both beautifully and simply in the same house for 60 years.

Marge Weesner, who inspired me to live life fully no matter what, no matter when, no matter how you feel.

Merril Holdahl, who welcomed me into his home, called me by name and taught me how godly men live.

Vida Curtis, who respected my career, my opinion, my dreams, and my faith.

Earl Nelson, whose shy soul quietly shaped North Valley, making it a better place to live by planting red clover, keeping honeybees and befriending absolutely anyone.

C. Earl Trudgeon, who stayed awake all night praying for our daughter to be healed only days before he died and whose shock and disbelief in the morning when he heard she hadn't been healed touched me deeply.

Winifred Landauer, whose smile I can still see.

Gretchen McQueen, who taught me how to face the worst (and the worst is not death) with a sweet and peaceful spirit.

Steve Codiga, who died lost and alone.

Jesus, who risked everything for me.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

listening life

When you believe that God still speaks, that his connection with humanity didn’t die with the last of the Apostles, it’s an interesting journey to the place where you can not only sense his presence but also admit it to someone else. As for me, I had to decide if I really wanted to. Even as a kid I could sense the Spirit in music, nature and silence but my generation witnessed its fair share of religious nuts, one of which led 900 people to their death in Guyana in 1978, and one result of that has been that indications that you might be hearing from God are cause for alarm.

All the same, as a Friend and from personal experience, I know that Christ does speak to individuals in that same ‘still small’ voice he used with Elijah. When we listen, really listen, we get a sense of who God is and what he is calling us to do and be. When we listen, we hear God’s truthful voice and it shapes us, transforms us, and impacts our path, always directing us toward something beautiful, good and wise.

The Listening Life ministry I have been privileged to be involved with this year has been an amazing experiment in, well, listening. About a year ago, three of us listened (to Christ, each other and to some wiser hearts) then decided that we could create a spiritual formation small group experience for our church that moves in sync with the sermon series. Since our pastor and worship planning team put an enormous amount of time and energy into the gathered worship services (listen to one here) each week, we three wanted others to come to worship prepared to listen to the Spirit and have people they could talk to about what they heard. So we gathered a team of writers who take turns writing materials ahead of the gathering and five Listening Life small groups convened last fall.

In just my little group, I’ve heard God speak peace to one, draw another one step closer to a foreign mission field, be a healing balm to another’s wounded soul, give more than one a bit of reassurance for the future, and talk to us all during gathered worship at one time or another. We came to know each other deeply and care about each other’s unique and beautiful stories. The first night we met, one wise member said that he felt the Spirit connecting us like a cord through each one’s heart. Our final meeting was last week and we made bookmarks by stringing beautiful glass beads, each one uniquely different and representing a member of the group, on a cord as a way of affirming and remembering each person. These particular people may never be physically together again but we share bonds of community, love and friendship that will continue regardless.

As the groups draw to a close for the summer now, it’s time to take stock. As leaders, we’re asking ourselves: When did we experience Christ? What did we hear? What is he calling us to next? God hasn’t answered these questions all at once but because we’re committed to pay attention as we live, work, play and serve together…we’ll know soon enough.

Check out our Listening Life website and let us know what you think.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

where i live

Some people say that the state of worldly things is getting better but frankly, I don’t see it. If you ask me, now is a time of enormous unrest, monumental turbulence and more worrisome world events than ever before. But then, so said my parent’s generation and my grandparent’s before them.

As a member of the majority, I quietly question the answers of majority rules. Speak softly and carry a big stick has accomplished little more than the becoming of a bigger target. All eyes are now drawn to the real live monster that takes without giving, consumes without consideration, crushes, destroys, and devours the weak and the foreign, and justifies thievery and murder by striking terror in the hearts and minds of its own people. As I write tonight, leviathans stand poised to strike at each other. Along with a billion ordinary people I pray that someone will have the courage to stand down. That someone will come to understand that going at each other with bigger and more deadly sticks is not our salvation.

This is a time when the sordid side of the human condition, from the ingenious creation of weapons of mass destruction, pandemic viruses leaving droves of orphans across continents, and child sexual abuse as a daily occurrence, is flashed in rapid succession across my TV screen, blares from my car radio and glares at me in four color print on the front page of the daily newspaper. It is hard to imagine a more frightening time than this, not because these are the worst of times, but because I can no longer keep the mad and frightened world out of my living room. There is no sanctuary.

I too often stand immobile, drowned by waves of despair. All around me the dark waters of human suffering threaten to suck me under and, sometimes standing on the edge of panic, I fear more than anything that in the end my life will have been wasted. So I do what I must to drag my flagging spirit back out into the light of day where I can breathe again.

By sheer force of will I take my eyes off of the world as often as I can and look instead to my own little community, the one small place where I know I can ring the bell and someone will come running to join me in saving the world; our world called Hometown, Oregon. For this I have been accused of being complacent about world issues. Small minded, cold hearted, selfish and ignorant. But I am only one person and God forgive me but I have a heart that is easily overwhelmed; a heart that literally feels the human need and suffering I see everywhere. I am also plagued with a driven-ness to fix things that would surely make me crazy if I were to follow every whim I’ve ever had to rescue the whole world. I have to ask, what good would I be standing catatonic in the hallway?

Day by day, I have to be able to live with myself. And my family has to be able to live with me. Neither is easy.

To live with myself, I must be able to say, “I made a difference to that one,” at the end of every single day. For my family to live with me, I need to be able to look them each in the eyes and tell them that I love them more than anyone else, every single day. I don’t always succeed but aspiring to anything less would mean I am just wasting the space where I live.